Golden Plates 2022: Salmon n' Bannock reclaims Indigenous culinary heritage

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      One of the few Indigenous restaurants in Vancouver history is poised to take flight.

      Inez Cook, owner of Salmon n’ Bannock (7–1128 West Broadway), has revealed plans to open a second location at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

      The new spot at the international departures area will be called Salmon n’ Bannock on the Fly.

      “Once you go through the duty free, your holiday has started and you’re ready to enjoy your holidays,” Cook told the Straight in a phone interview.

      “You can have a nice glass of wine and a delicious meal before you get on your flight,” she added.

      Cook also said that travellers can also take meals with them on their flights.

      The Nuxalk Nation woman cofounded Salmon n’ Bannock in 2010, just in time for the Winter Olympics hosted by the City of Vancouver that year.

      Cook said that she’s retiring soon as a flight attendant with Air Canada, and that presents a good time to open a second location at the airport.

      “I’ve been in the airline industry for 31 years,” she said.

      The Nuxalk Nation’s Inez Cook says that offerings at the YVR location will be based on Salmon n' Bannock's Uber Eats menu.

      Salmon n’ Bannock is part of an ongoing movement among Indigenous peoples to reclaim and celebrate their culinary heritage.

      The loss of traditional foods and diet is one of the legacies of the residential school system, which represents a dark spot in Canadian history.

      More than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken away from their families over a period of 150 years. They were brought to boarding schools, where they were stripped of their cultural heritage.

      The first school opened in 1831, and the last institution closed in 1996.

      The federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission reviewed the history of this policy, concluding in 2015 that it constituted “cultural genocide”. A report rendered by the TRC from survivor testimonies detailed stories about food deprivation and loss of heritage.

      “In their home communities, many students had been raised on food that their parents had hunted, fished, or harvested. Strange and unfamiliar meals at the schools added to their sense of disorientation,” the commission reported.

      One of the survivors who testified at the TRC proceedings was Daisy Diamond, who attended a residential school in Ontario. “When I was going to Shingwauk, the food didn’t taste very good, because we didn’t have our traditional food there, our moose meat, our bannock, and our berries. Those were the things that we had back home, and we were very lonely without those berries,” Diamond said.

      Ellen Smith from the Northwest Territories testified that “schooling made it impossible for her to fit back into her home community”.

      “I can’t sew; I can’t cut up caribou meat. I can’t cut up moose meat, work with fish, and speak my language. So I was starting to become alienated from my parents and my grandparents, everything,” Smith testified.

      In 2017, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a peer-reviewed article titled “ ‘Hunger was never absent’: How residential school diets shaped current patterns of diabetes among Indigenous peoples in Canada”.

      “Hunger has always been central to survivors’ accounts of their residential school experiences, and we strongly believe that this testimony must be taken more seriously by researchers and medical practitioners,” the article stated.

      Moreover, “In light of recent evidence showing the connections between childhood hunger and chronic disease risk both in adulthood and in succeeding generations, we can now be fairly certain that the elevated risk of obesity, early onset insulin resistance, and diabetes observed among Indigenous peoples in Canada arises, in part at least, from the prolonged malnutrition experienced by many residential school survivors.”

      Salmon n' Bannock was voted best Indigenous restaurant by Georgia Straight readers in advance of the 25th annual Golden Plates edition.
      Salmon n' Bannock

      Salmon n’ Bannock’s Cook said in the interview that the offerings at the airport location will be based on her restaurant’s Uber Eats menu.

      The Vancouver business came up with the food delivery menu in response to dining restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Cook said that the list includes, among others, smoked-salmon burger, open-faced bison sandwich, bannock bread and jam, and breakfast sandwiches like elk salami, egg, and cheese.

      Cook has launched a fundraising campaign called “Feed Your Spirit” to both help complete the construction of Salmon n’ Bannock on the Fly and to train staff.

      “This is one way that people can help bring Salmon n’ Bannock to new heights and give it wings at the airport,” Cook said.